Habakkuk 1:2
O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!
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(2) Even cry out.—The latter half of the verse is best rendered “Even cry unto thee Violence! and thou wilt not save.” The single word “violence!” (châmâs) occurs elsewhere, as an appeal for assistance, used as we use the cry “murder!” “fire!” &c., among ourselves. (See Jeremiah 20:8, Job 19:7.)

Habakkuk 1:2-4. O Lord, how long shall I cry, &c. — How long shall I complain unto thee of might overcoming right, and thou wilt not save or prevent it? The prophet here proposes the common objection against Providence, taken from the prosperity of the wicked, and their oppression of the righteous, which has often been a stumbling-block even to good men: see Jeremiah 12:1; Job 12:6; and Job 21:7; Psalm 37., 73. Why dost thou show me iniquity? — Why hast thou caused me to live in such times of iniquity? for I see nothing but scenes of rapine, and the most unjust oppression. And there are that raise up strife, &c. — Or, there is strife, and contention carries it. There is much cause for complaining, but those best skilled in the arts of contention carry the cause. Therefore the law is slacked — The divine law, given us for the regulation of our conduct, hath lost its force. And judgment doth never go forth — Causes remain undetermined, and justice is not duly administered. For the wicked, &c. — For the wicked, by their deceitful arts, prevail against the righteous, and overpower them; therefore [rather, moreover] wrong judgment proceedeth — Not only judgment is delayed, but, what is still worse, unjust judgment is given, and causes are evidently decided in a manner quite contrary to what is equitable and just.

1:1-11 The servants of the Lord are deeply afflicted by seeing ungodliness and violence prevail; especially among those who profess the truth. No man scrupled doing wrong to his neighbour. We should long to remove to the world where holiness and love reign for ever, and no violence shall be before us. God has good reasons for his long-suffering towards bad men, and the rebukes of good men. The day will come when the cry of sin will be heard against those that do wrong, and the cry of prayer for those that suffer wrong. They were to notice what was going forward among the heathen by the Chaldeans, and to consider themselves a nation to be scourged by them. But most men presume on continued prosperity, or that calamities will not come in their days. They are a bitter and hasty nation, fierce, cruel, and bearing down all before them. They shall overcome all that oppose them. But it is a great offence, and the common offence of proud people, to take glory to themselves. The closing words give a glimpse of comfort.O Lord, how long shall I cry - Literally, "how long have I cried so intensely to Thee?" Because it is always the cry of the creature to the One who alone can hear or help - its God. Of this cry the Prophet expresses that it had already lasted long. In that long past he had cried out to God but no change had come. There is an undefined past, and this still continues.

How long - as Asaph cries, "how long hast Thou been," and, it is implied, wilt Thou be "wroth against the prayer of Thy people?" as we should say," how long shall Thy wrath continue?" The words which the prophet uses relate to domestic strife and wrong between man and man; violence, iniquity, strife, contention Habakkuk 1:3, nor are any of them used only of the oppression of a foreign enemy. Also, Habakkuk complains of injustice too strong for the law, and the perversion of justice Habakkuk 1:4. And upon this, the sentence is pronounced. The enemy is to be sent for judgment and correction Habakkuk 1:12. They are then the sins of Judah which the prophet rehearses before God, in fellow-suffering with the oppressed. God answers that they shall be removed, but by the punishment of the sinners.

Punishment does not come without sin, nor does sin endure without punishment. It is one object of the Old Testament to exhibit the connection between sin and punishment. Other prophets, as commissioned by God, first denounced the sins and then foretold the punishment of the impenitent. Habakkuk appeals to God's justice, as requiring its infliction. On this ground too this opening of the prophecy cannot be a complaint against the Chaldees, because their wrong would be no ground of the punishment which the prophet denounced, but the punishment itself, requiting wrong to man through human wrong.

Cyril: "The prophet considers the person of the oppressed, enduring the intolerable insolence and contumely of those accustomed to do wrong, and very skillfully doth he attest the unutterable lovingkindness of God, for he exhibits Him as very forbearing, though accustomed to hate wickedness, but that He doth not immediately bring judgment upon the offenders, he showed clearly, saying that so great is His silence and long-suffering, that there needeth a strong cry, in that some practice intolerable covetousness against others, and use an unbridled insolence against the weak, for his very complaints of God's endurance of evil attest the immeasurable loving kindness of God."

Cyril: "You may judge hence of the hatred of evil among the saints. For they speak of the woes of others as their own. So saith the most wise Paul 2 Corinthians 11:29, who is weak and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? and bade us Romans 12:15 weep with those who weep, showing that sympathy and mutual love are especially becoming to the saints."

The prophet, through sympathy or fellow-suffering with the sufferers, is as one of them. He cries for help, as himself needing it, and being in the misery, in behalf of which he prays. He says, "How long shall I cry?" standing, as it were, in the place of all, and gathering all their cries into one, and presenting them before God. It is the cry, in one, of all which is wronged to the God of Justice, of all suffering to the God of love. "When shall this scene of sin, and confusion, and wrong be at an end, and the harmony of God's creation be restored? How long shall evil not exist only, but prevail?" It is the cry of the souls under the altar Revelation 6:10, "How long, O Lord, Holy and True, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" It is the voice of the oppressed against the oppressor; of the Church against the world; weary of hearing the Lord's Name blasphemed, of seeing wrong set up on high, of holiness trampled underfoot. It is in its highest sense His Voice, who, to sanctify our longings for deliverance, said in the days of His Flesh Psalm 22:2, "I cry in the daytime, but Thou hearest not."

Even cry out - aloud (it is the cry of anguish) Dion.: "We cry the louder, the more we cry from the heart, even without words; for not the moving of the lips, but the love of the heart sounds in the ears of God."

Even cry out unto Thee. - Whether as an exclamation or a continuance of the question, How long? The prophet gathered in one the prolonged cry of past and future. He had cried out; he should cry on, "Violence." He speaks as if the one word, jerked out, as it were, wrung forth from his inmost soul, was, "Violence," as if he said this one word to the God of justice and love.

2, 3. violence … Why dost thou show me iniquity?—Similar language is used of the Chaldeans (Hab 1:9, 13), as here is used of the Jews: implying, that as the Jews sinned by violence and injustice, so they should be punished by violence and injustice (Pr 1:31). Jehoiakim's reign was marked by injustice, treachery, and bloodshed (Jer 22:3, 13-17). Therefore the Chaldeans should be sent to deal with him and his nobles according to their dealings with others (Hab 1:6, 10, 11, 17). Compare Jeremiah's expostulation with Jehovah, Jer 12:1; 20:8; and Job 19:7, 8. O Lord: unto God alone he makes his application, as only able to redress all grievances.

How long! it may be some years he had preached, and in preaching had complained and cried out against wickedness.

Shall I cry, unto men in thy name, and unto thee in prayer and supplication.

And thou wilt not hear; give answer by correcting or punishing the bad, and by rescuing and delivering the good; by appearing a just Arbitrator and Judge of both.

Cry out, with submission, not murmuring, not impatient, not distrusting the justice or mercy of God. Unto thee, who art more displeased than I or any one else can be disquieted with that I complain of, who art by office and word bound to restrain violence, &c.

Of violence; the unjust and wicked oppressions which I see, others feel, and all good people are endangered by.

And thou wilt not save; by changing the bad, or restraining them, or by overthrowing them, and setting up just and upright men in their room, both in Jerusalem and in Judea, and every where else.

O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear!.... The prophet having long observed the sins and iniquities of the people among whom he lived, and being greatly distressed in his mind on account of them, had frequently and importunately cried unto the Lord to put a stop to the abounding of them, that the people might be brought to a sense of their sins, and reform from them; but nothing of this kind appearing, he concludes his prayers were not heard, and therefore expostulates with the Lord upon this head:

even cry unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save! either of violence done to himself in the discharge of his office, or of one man to another, of the rich to the poor; and yet, though he cried again and again to the Lord, to check this growing evil, and deliver the oppressed out of the hands of their oppressors, it was not done; which was matter of grief and trouble to him.

O LORD, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out to thee {a} of violence, and thou wilt not save!

(a) The Prophet complains to God, and bewails that among the Jews is left no fairness and brotherly love: but instead of these reigns cruelty, theft, contention, and strife.

2–4. The Prophet’s complaint that he has long cried out against evils unheard

2. how long shall I cry] lit. shall I have cried? Exodus 10:3; Exodus 16:28; Psalm 80:4. The prophet’s cry extends back into the past. But though he has been long crying he has received no answer from Heaven; the evil proceeds unchecked, even unregarded of God (Habakkuk 1:3).

wilt not hear] dost not hear.

even cry out unto thee of violence] I cry out unto thee of violence (or, Violence! this being the word which forms his cry). Job 19:7; Jeremiah 20:8. The term “violence” is equivalent to wrong, injury, whether accompanied with force or not, Genesis 16:5.

wilt not save] dost not save, or, give deliverance, Psalm 18:41 (Heb. 42). The cry of wrong and injury though long continued has evoked no interposition of God, nor been met with any help. The prophet seems certainly to complain not only of injury which he sees around him, but which he suffers (Job 19:7; Jeremiah 20:8). But it may be a question when he says “I” whether he does not make himself one with some class in Israel, namely, the godly, who are wronged by the wicked, or with Israel as a people, which suffers injury at the hands of a foreign oppressor.

Verses 2-4. - 2. The prophet complains to God of the iniquity of his own nation, and its consequence. Verse 2. - Shall I cry; Septuagint, κέκραξομαι. The Hebrew is taken to imply that the prophet had long been complaining of the moral depravity of Judah, and calling for help against it There is no reference here, as Ewald fancies, to acts of violence committed by the Chaldeans, who, in fact, are announced as coming to chastise the wickedness of the chosen people (ver. 6). And thou wilt not hear! The continuance of evil unchecked is an anomaly in the prophet's eye; and, putting himself in the position of the righteous among the people, he asks how long this is to last. Even cry out unto thee of violence; better, I cry out unto thee, Violence. A similar construction is found in Job 19:7; Jeremiah 20:8. "Violence" includes all manner of wrong done to one's neighbour. Septuagint, Βοήσομαι πρὸς σὲ ἀδικούμενος, "I will cry unto thee being wronged," as if the wrong was done to the prophet himself. So the Vulgate, Vociferabor ad te vim patiens. But Habakkuk doubtless speaks in the person of the righteous, grieved at the wickedness he sees around, and the more perplexed as the Law led him to look for temporal rewards and punishments, if in the case of individuals, much more in that of the chosen nation (Leviticus 26, passim). Habakkuk 1:2The prophet's lamentation. Hab 1:2. "How long, Jehovah, have I cried, and Thou hearest not? I cry to Thee, Violence; and Thou helpest not! Habakkuk 1:3. Why dost Thou let me see mischief, and Thou lookest upon distress? devastation and violence are before me: there arises strife, and contention lifts itself up. Habakkuk 1:4. Therefore the law is benumbed, and justice comes not forth for ever: for sinners encircle the righteous man; therefore justice goes forth perverted." This complaint, which involves a petition for help, is not merely an expression of the prophet's personal desire for the removal of the prevailing unrighteousness; but the prophet laments, in the name of the righteous, i.e., the believers in the nation, who had to suffer under the oppression of the wicked; not, however, as Rosenmller and Ewald, with many of the Rabbins, suppose, over the acts of wickedness and violence which the Chaldaeans performed in the land, but over the wicked conduct of the ungodly of his own nation. For it is obvious that these verses refer to the moral depravity of Judah, from the fact that God announced His purpose to raise up the Chaldaeans to punish it (Habakkuk 1:5.). It is true that, in Habakkuk 1:9 and Habakkuk 1:13, wickedness and violence are attributed to the Chaldaeans also; but all that can be inferred from this is, that "in the punishment of the Jewish people a divine talio prevails, which will eventually fall upon the Chaldaeans also" (Delitzsch). The calling for help (שׁוּע is described, in the second clause, as crying over wickedness. חמס is an accusative, denoting what he cries, as in Job 19:7 and Jeremiah 20:8, viz., the evil that is done. Not hearing is equivalent to not helping. The question עד־אנה indicates that the wicked conduct has continued a long time, without God having put a stop to it. This appears irreconcilable with the holiness of God. Hence the question in Habakkuk 1:3 : Wherefore dost Thou cause me to see mischief, and lookest upon it Thyself? which points to Numbers 23:21, viz., to the words of Balaam, "God hath not beheld iniquity ('âven) in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness (‛âmâl) in Israel." This word of God, in which Balaam expresses the holiness of Israel, which remains true to the idea of its divine election, is put before the Lord in the form of a question, not only to give prominence to the falling away of the people from their divine calling, and their degeneracy into the very opposite of what they ought to be, but chiefly to point to the contradiction involved in the fact, that God the Holy One does now behold the evil in Israel and leave it unpunished. God not only lets the prophet see iniquity, but even looks at Himself. This is at variance with His holiness. און, nothingness, then worthlessness, wickedness (cf. Isaiah 1:13). עמל, labour, then distress which a man experiences or causes to others (cf. Isaiah 10:1). הבּיט, to see, not to cause to see. Ewald has revoked the opinion, that we have here a fresh hiphil, derived from a hiphil. With שׁד וגו the address is continued in the form of a simple picture. Shōd vechâmâs are often connected (e.g., Amos 3:10; Jeremiah 6:7; Jeremiah 20:8; Ezekiel 45:9). Shōd is violent treatment causing desolation. Châmâs is malicious conduct intended to injure another. ווהי, it comes to pass, there arises strife (rı̄bh) in consequence of the violent and wicked conduct. ישּׂא, to rise up, as in Hosea 13:1; Psalm 89:10. The consequences of this are relaxation of the law, etc. על־כּן, therefore, because God does not interpose to stop the wicked conduct. פּוּג, to relax, to stiffen, i.e., to lose one's vital strength, or energy. Tōrâh is "the revealed law in all its substance, which was meant to be the soul, the heart of political, religious, and domestic life" (Delitzsch). Right does not come forth, i.e., does not manifest itself, lânetsach, lit., for a permanence, i.e., for ever, as in many other passages, e.g., Psalm 13:2; Isaiah 13:20. לנצח belongs to לא, not for ever, i.e., never more. Mishpât is not merely a righteous verdict, however; in which case the meaning would be: There is no more any righteous verdict given, but a righteous state of things, objective right in the civil and political life. For godless men (רשׁע, without an article, is used with indefinite generality or in a collective sense) encircle the righteous man, so that the righteous cannot cause right to prevail. Therefore right comes forth perverted. The second clause, commencing with על־כּן, completes the first, adding a positive assertion to the negative. The right, which does still come to the light, is מעקּל, twisted, perverted, the opposite of right. To this complaint Jehovah answers in Habakkuk 1:5-11 that He will do a marvellous work, inflict a judgment corresponding in magnitude to the prevailing injustice.
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